Further to the success of the senior team in securing silver in the Small Countries Division in May 2015, there was a gap in the programme while the association worked on replacing Head Coach Craig Faill.
I was delighted and honoured to be appointed Head Coach of the senior team, the first task being to prepare a team for the CEV qualifiers in Luxembourg in June 2016 where we would face Iceland, Northern Ireland and Luxembourg.
There is a fantastic staffing team to support the squad:
Lynne Beattie: Assistant Coach
Gail Campbell: Team Manager
Sarah Jones: Physiotherapist
Training began in earnest in January 2016 with a clear focus on improving physical conditioning and hitting weight. The squad itself is a dedicated group of individuals, with a healthy mix of experience and youth with a drive to get better and are already showing signs of gelling as a team. The squad has embraced the regular testing of various physical elements required to be a great volleyball athlete.
Making the first team selection was a difficult task but eventually 12 players were selected for the SCD European Qualification Tournament / World Championship Qualification Tournament in Luxembourg June 24th – 26th 2016
The top two teams from the event would qualify for the SCD Finals, and the top team for the first round proper of the World Championships.
Scotland V Iceland 0 – 3 (21-25, 14-25, 18-25)
Scotland started well in this match and it looked like there would be a long competitive match ahead, but after a momentum swing at the end of the first set, Scotland lost the belief that we could win this game. Iceland were a tall team and eventually dominated Scotland on the net.
Scotland V Northern Ireland 3 – 0 (25-13, 25-4, 25-11)
This was a very clinical performance from the Scottish Team who arrived at the game with a bit of steel, ready to show how they could perform with a new found belief. There was a nervous start following a very unfortunate injury to Priya Gill in the warm up, but thereafter there was no holding back with strong serving and net play.
Scotland V Luxembourg 3 – 1 (25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 25-20)
This was an excellent match for Scotland, and with the whole squad involved on court at different times throughout the match it exemplified a true team performance. Sound tactical play combined with block dominance eventually ensured a well deserved, and crucial win for Scotland ensuring a second place finish and qualification to the SCD Finals in 2017.
Going into this event the Scottish team had two targets:
• To qualify for the finals of 2017 SCD Championships
• To win the qualification tournament and qualify for the next round of the World Championships
The team met one of these targets.
The team has undergone many changes in personnel over the last year both in terms of players and staff. The selected group that travelled to Luxembourg adapted well to change and were asked to have a flexible approach to playing positions and possible changes within a match or from match to match. This seemed to work well.
Overall improvements in strength and conditioning, informed by regular testing, helped embed an expectation of physical fitness and will ultimately allow for an improvement in performance longer term. The opportunity for players to compete in more competitive match situations more often is something that would make a big difference to performance.
There were various partners, parents and friends who travelled to Luxembourg to support the players and the team. Their encouragement and goodwill was very much appreciated.
The professionalism, hard work and good humour of the National Team Staff ensured that the players were well organised and could focus on their performances. Gail Wilson was resourceful, organised and calm as Team Manager, and was also a great help in taking statistics during matches, helping to scout the opposition. Sarah Jones in her debut with SWNT did an outstanding job of keeping the players healthy and integrated extremely well with the team dynamics. Brian McDougall again demonstrated that he is an outstanding match official, and Lynne Beattie brought invaluable support with her experience and insight of match scouting and tactics. My grateful thanks to all of them for the support they gave both myself and the team.
The final mention must go to the players. Captain Jen Thom and her team are to be congratulated for the way they conducted themselves throughout the tour and for the excellent performances they delivered. There is a great deal of potential in this group. They were positive ambassadors for themselves, the SVA and the Scottish Women’s National Team Programme, and it was a privilege to work with them. Qualification for the SCD Finals was a great achievement for a new team of players and staff, and we look forward to the challenges ahead.